RENTON, Wash. (AP) Playing across the country on a short week and facing one of the top teams in the NFL coming off a bye, the Seattle Seahawks had every reasonable excuse available.
And yet, what could have been an expected setback instead became one of Seattle's most impressive regular season wins under coach Pete Carroll.
''We've had our struggles, but fortunately enough we've been on the positive side of it,'' Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin said after the game. ''So, as we continue to get healthy and continue to execute and get better at that, I think we'll continue to improve and hopefully continue to win.
Seattle's 31-24 victory over New England will be remembered for the final sequence - one that was eerily similar to when the teams met in the Super Bowl two years ago, except this time it was the Patriots who threw a failed pass from the 1-yard line. At Super Bowl XLIX, Russell Wilson's pass was intercepted by Malcom Butler, giving New England its fourth championship. On Sunday, Tom Brady's lob fell incomplete after an end-zone collision between Rob Gronkowski and safety Kam Chancellor, sending the Seahawks home with an unlikely victory.
It won't be considered one of Seattle's most important victories under Carroll - there were too many games earlier in his tenure, before the Seahawks were established as regular contenders, that created the base for what's become a four-year run as one of the top teams in the NFC.
But considering the circumstances, it ranks among the most impressive. Seattle was playing just six days after outlasting Buffalo on Monday night , traveling across the country on Friday for a Sunday night game against a rested Patriots squad that hadn't played since winning at Buffalo on Oct. 30.
It was a scenario set for Seattle to fail. Instead, the Seahawks thrived.
''The mentality in believing that you're going to get it done, remaining confident, finding the confidence that it takes to execute well, comes from experience and really good leadership,'' Carroll said. ''The guys, they were in it to win the thing all the way to the last inch and found a way.''
The victory was encouraging, and so was the re-emergence of Seattle's offense following a sluggish first half of the season. Baldwin created headaches for defensive backs, especially near the end zone, where he caught three touchdowns for the first time since Week 14 of last season. Wilson looked as healthy as he has all season, throwing for 348 yards, and showing the elusiveness and ability to extend plays with his legs that's been absent since suffering ankle and knee injuries in the first three weeks of the season.
But the most important change was a rushing attack that entered the week 30th in the NFL, averaging just 75 yards per game. Led by rookie C.J. Prosise, the Seahawks ran for 96 yards as a team. It's not a significant total, but it was Seattle's most yards on the ground since Week 3.
Prosise provided a missing spark, along with a solid night by Seattle's maligned offensive line. The third-round pick, slowed early in the season by a broken bone in his hand, rushed for 66 yards on 17 carries and caught all seven targets for 87 yards.
''C.J. hit stuff really well. He took advantage of a leap forward from our guys up front,'' Carroll said. ''It was the most aggressive that we've been, the most confident coming off the ball. It was just the best outing that we've had. I think it all fit together.''
NOTES: LB Mike Morgan was activated off injured reserve for return to practice on Monday. Carroll said the plan is for Morgan to have a couple weeks of practice before being added to the active roster. ... LB Kevin Pierre-Louis injured his hamstring in the game but was the only injury of significance. ... DE Michael Bennett is still likely a couple of weeks away following minor knee surgery. Bennett has missed the last three games. ... RB Thomas Rawls is expected to practice this week and is on track to play Sunday. Rawls (shin) has been out since Week 2.
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